I’m a firm believer in the idea that being metal and being in a metal band are not mutually exclusive. Much like how watching your uncle dressed as santa claus get drunk and fight your dad at family christmas is metal despite technically being the manifestation of years of pent-up tension between two dullard paper pushers, the following vocalists managed to be metal without the aid of a single inverted crucifix or a pig squeal. Read on!

#5: Ian Curtis (Joy Division)

Joy Division are one of those bands that are important to metal in an indirect way. Sure, it’s not like they invented a new type of blastbeat or pioneered the duelling guitar solo, but if they hadn’t written tunes like ‘Day Of The Lords’, the dudes from Neurosis wouldn’t have spent so long laboring over individual riffs again and again, and then we’d have a world where Converge had never written the title track from ‘You Fail Me’. Basically, they were the godfathers of the dirge. Their frontman, Ian Curtis, had epilepsy that was triggered by certain sounds or rhythms, and he would often have fits onstage as a result. But damnit, he kept on playing with Joy Division until the day he took his own life. Curtis’ voice and words hang heavy over Joy Division’s discography and their legacy, heaving and moaning like a goth Jim Morrison, and on tracks like the aforementioned ‘Day Of The Lords’, it’s bleaker than listening to every Xasthur album at once.

#4: Ghostface Killah (Wu-Tang Clan)

Once upon a time, metal vocals were intended to be scary – like, they were meant to make you feel actual fear. These days it’s more or less just a stylistic indicator – the cookie monster bits are there to remind you that you’re listening to a metal album; your band does it because the bands you love do it, the bands you love do it cause the bands they love did it. So nowadays, with a few exceptions, vocal performances on metal records fail to instill any dread in this writer. But listening to Ghostface rhyme still makes me tense up a little every time, because the dude really sounds dangerous. When he hits his stride, the man genuinely sounds like he could snap at any moment, reach through your speakers, knock you clean the fuck out and grope your sister. Check out his opening verse on this tune from last years ‘Chamber Music’compilation:

#3: Jonsi (Sigur Ros)

Man, King Diamon can really belt out those notes, huh? Remember that one time you went and saw Judas Priest and you were, like, so high man, and you thought that maybe Rob Halford had found the resonant frequency of your skull cause man you were, like, totally tripping when he rocked those high notes. Yeah, hitting ridiculously high head notes is pretty metal. But in that field, even RJD (Satan rest his soul) would have trouble competing with Jonsi, the lazy-eyed frontman for Icelanding post-rockers Sigur Ros. I’ve seen them live, and can report that the dudes projection is just absurd. He was standing a full four or five feet from his mic, and every note was clear as day. I know a few of you are probably protesting already – “hey wait! Sigur Ros has feelings and violins and shit! That’s not metal at all!” BZZT! Wrong answer! Check out the video below, and with a little patience you’ll see how heavy these dudes can be. The goods start around the 1:50 mark, and everything really gets moving up at 7:04

#2: Nick Cave (The Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party and Grinderman)

Most of you probably know Nick Cave as he is these days: a mustachioed older gent who once duetted with Kylie Minogue, preoccupied with tickling the ivories and clearing his love for the lord. But what a lot of you may not know is that all through the 70s and 80s – first with The Birthday Party and then fronting The Bad Seeds – Nick was a manic junkie who weighed about as much as a greyhound, mad-bastard-preaching his way through one near-disaster after the next. Like Australia’s answer to David Yow,  Cave wa snotorious for his caustic live performances and his vicious vocal delivery. Here he is with the seeds in 1989 – after he’d started to cool out a bit – playing ‘The Mercy Seat’, a song about a death row inmate reflecting on the question of his inoccence as he’s lead to the electric chair. Brutal.

#1: Johnny Cash (dude, he’s Johnny fucking Cash)

I shouldn’t even have to explain this one – Johnny Cash is to vocalist badassery what Chuck Norris is to shitty jokes about being macho. If he were alive today, Johnny Cash would drink Lemmy under the table, then beat him in a fistfight and take his mole. He burnt down a few hundred acres of national forest in the 60s and walked away without a conviction because he told the judge that “I didn’t do it, my truck did”. Everything about the dude is metal before you even get to the tunes. The Man In Black (see? Even his nickname is metal!) felt the pain in a way that every Beneath The Scars Of Autumn-core band can only imagine, and it reflects in his music. Just to make it a little easier on anybody who is allergic to the sound of Grampas Guitars, here’s The Man right before he died covering Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’.


-Crack Hitler

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